This is the note I sent to my synagogue community on August 28, 2017.
The images of the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, in Houston and other communities in Texas and Louisiana, is devastating. It is on pace to be one of the worst episodes of flooding in recent American history.
Many of us in Hoboken know what it is like to be evacuated, stranded, and/or to have flooded homes and cars or other property. For many of us, this prompts a desire to help others, just as others around the country came to the aid of our community at our time of need.
In addition to aid organizations such as the Red Cross and Salvation Army, there are a number of Jewish organizations that are providing non-sectarian disaster relief. The following are some of the organizations that are accepting donations -- together with some thoughts about how these same organizations assisted us after Sandy. The United Synagogue of Hoboken Rabbis Discretionary Fund is making donations to all of these organizations.
Jewish Federations of North America -- This is the umbrella organization of all the Jewish Federations across the country, including the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston. You can donate to Harvey relief through our local Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey's dedicated page, https://www.jfnnj.org/
hurricaneharvey/, or to the Houston Federation's Harvey Relief Fund or to the national JFNA relief fund. Donations from Jewish Federations were helpful to our synagogue and many individuals in our area following Sandy. 100% of donations go to disaster relief in the affected area.
Nechama - a Jewish Response to Disaster is a Jewish disaster relief organization that mobilizes volunteers to assist with the hard work of gutting and rebuilding following storms, floods and other disasters. Nechama volunteers were instrumental in the early stages of our synagogue's recovery after Sandy, as well as in clearing many of Hoboken's municipal buildings so they could be used as polling stations (for the 2012 election shortly after Sandy), and in assisting many people in our area -- especially the elderly -- in cleaning out their homes after the storm. While most Nechama volunteers are Jewish, most beneficiaries of Nechama's work are not - they assist whoever needs the help most. Nechama is currently evaluating their plans for responding to Harvey and will be seeking funds as well as volunteers.
Hebrew Free Loan Society has a project to provide interest-free loans to people in Houston who will need help in rebuilding. see http://hfls.org/donate-to-
These suggestions are in addition to the following organizations (info copied from online news sources):
Donations to the Red Cross for those affected by Harvey can be made online, or text HARVEY to 90999.
Donations to the Salvation Army can be made online.
Catholic Charities is accepting donations online, or text CCUSADISASTER to 71777 to donate.
Donate food, clothing and supplies: Feeding Texas is coordinating with local food banks to distribute food and cleaning supplies. The Texas Diaper bank is seeking diaper donations. You can mail them to 5415 Bandera Road, Suite 504, San Antonio, Texas 78238. [A note from Rabbi Scheinberg: Once the immediate crisis is done, donations of items often simply get in the way. Money is probably the most productive way to assist.]
We join with all those who are affected in praying for a swift end to this crisis, and strength and hopefulness to those who are rebuilding. We express our gratitude for the courage of first responders who are saving lives every hour of this crisis. May we do our part to assist those who now know the pain and the fear that so many of us once knew.
Rabbi Rob Scheinberg